Last year, my 8th grade daughter, a typical straight A student, received a B.
*cue end of the world scene*
After much crying and gnashing of teeth, I started looking deeper into where this came from. Looking at her grades, I saw several zeroes in different classes, so I emailed asking if she’d not turned in work (as I know she’ll work hard to avoid writing). No, all the assignments were turned in, just a few late ones, which is where the zeroes came from.
The zeroes came from late work. Well, that got me wondering, ok, what’s the policy of other teachers on late work. I’ve worked here long enough that I emailed them all asking about this topic, and my responses were as wide ranging at the personalities who sent them. The policy was not uniform and ranged from zero to percent off to a few points off. I’d just read an article of the power of zeroes in grading and how much damage they can do, both to the grade and the student, that I emailed all the responses to our principal with a note about why I’d done what I’d done.
Needless to say, some feathers were ruffled, but suddenly, there were conversations about grading and about appropriate consequences. As we learned at our PLC training this summer, I felt even better about stirring the pot. This year, the conversation is around those who are not turning work in, how to help them, and how to get them to demonstrate their learning, perhaps in different ways. Awesome!
Now, of course, I’m dealing with the same thing, and I want the consequence to fit the crime. I work hard to impress on my students the importance of having a voice. Part of that voice is saying “I need help!” I’ve got students who don’t realize how powerful that is, so finding the consequence is difficult because I don’t want to squelch that idea either.
I struggle with that idea of consequence what is right, yet, they are necessary. I believe school should be a safe place for mistakes to be made. Yet, I also believe that with any mistake, learning should happen. Sometimes, it’s just hard to find the right learning to go with the mistake!